Heartbreaking Loss in D.C. Could Have Been Avoided

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OK. I've got a question for everyone out there. Be honest, now.

When you saw both Chris Perez and Ryan Franklin used in the first game of a split doubleheader, a game in which Todd Wellemeyer, who was cruising along just as easy as you please, what did you think? If you're anything like me, you probably thought to yourself, "Jesus, we're in trouble now."

Look, I understand wanting to win the game, and the series. Absolutely the most important thing. But really, did any of us expect Mike Parisi to go out and fire a gem in the second game? Did anyone honestly think that the bullpen could just go ahead and take the night off, we got this one?



Ryan Franklin is not a closer. He's an okay setup man. He would be a dynamite middle reliever. A closer, though? No. The problem with that, of course, is that Ryan Franklin was essentially asked not only to be a closer yesterday, but to be a really good closer. Twice.

Last night's loss, a true heartbreaker if ever there was one, was the direct result of poor bullpen management in the first game. La Russa, despite being fully aware of the fact that the Cardinals had to play two games Thursday, threw the kitchen sink at the Washington Nationals Thursday in the early game. Again, I understand the impetus to secure the game and series win, but a little foresight would have gone a long way toward avoiding the scene we saw in the tenth inning last night.

You have two pitchers on this team right now who are supposedly in the rotation to close games. Chris Perez, the young fireballer, and Ryan Franklin, the cagey vet. Why was it necessary to use both of them in the same game? By using both of them, La Russa left himself with no real option to try and close out the late game. His only choice was to use the same pitcher twice in the same day. Now, I don't pretend to be any sort of pitching guru, but I sincerely doubt that's a particularly good idea.

It didn't have to be this way.

When Franklin came into the game last night, it was pretty clear he just didn't have it. His pitches weren't sharp; his slider just sort of sat there spinning. Unfortunately, I think that may be pretty much what you expect from a pitcher who's out there for the second time in eight hours trying to close out a game.

It was still a great game, you know. Joe Mather collected the first of what I think will be many major league home runs, and Mark Worrell collected the first of what I think will be very, very few. By the way, speaking of Worrell, does anyone else hear Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" in their head as Worrell whirls into that Rube Goldberg delivery of his? Personally, I have no idea how one even begins to go about throwing a ball the way he does, but it sure is fun to watch.

Yes, it was a great day of baseball. Still, with just even a tiny little bit more planning, we might not be talking this morning about the one that got away. This was a Nationals team the Cardinals probably should have swept; a team they truly needed to sweep. It was a great day, but the ending could have been changed. It wouldn't have been that hard. Instead, we're talking once again about a victory that was in sight, only to vanish into the realm of could have beens.

-Aaron Schafer

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